Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona” (part 6 of 6)
Back in the dull Romeo and Juliet rip-off (which, somehow, is even more of a rip-off than that story Mr. T told about Jackie and Ricky), Okona talks to Lady Capulet, reminding her of all the things she’s done for Timberlake, and vice versa, and how they truly do love each other, blah blah blah. The orchestra swoops in as Capulet proclaims her love for Timberlake and Timberlake asks her to marry him. And, of course, she says yes.
Okona whistles to get Timberlake’s attention, and then tosses the Jewel of Thesia on over. For a “national heritage”, they sure have no compunction about treating it like a softball. Also, I’m getting less “national treasure” from this object than I am “cheap broach from Zales”. I’m just sayin’.
Well, the two lovebirds hold hands and another stupid bit is made out of the dads arguing about which planet they’ll live on. Picard comes over and is like, “My name’s Paul, and that’s between y’all” and tells them to get the hell off his ship already. He says the Enterprise has some “business” to attend to, namely, the business of ending this insipid plot. Okona beams proudly as the dads say, “My grandson!” to each other. Oh, a minute ago it was all “bastard child”, now it’s “my grandson”. What’s that all about?
Meanwhile, a spotlight comes on at the Holodeck Comedy Club. Piscopo does Data’s introduction, calling him the “android of antics” and the “lieutenant commander of mirth”. Data comes out to applause. He’s currently wearing a tuxedo and holding a cigar, and he does the Rodney Dangerfield collar-tug.
Doing the stupid George Burns gestures, he says, “Good evening, ladies and germs!” And the crowd laughs uproariously. Wow! They must have got the studio audience from a UPN sitcom to sit in! Data is enthralled by this response. He does a Johnny Carson-style golf swing with his cigar, and the crowd eats it up. Another joke about coming from a small town and having a “fraction for a zip code” goes over the same way.
“We didn’t have a godfather of crime,” Data says. “We had a nephew!” More laughs ensue as Data happily looks over at Piscopo and Guinan in the rafters. Piscopo gives him the thumbs up, and Data returns the gesture. The crowd laughs again. Data shows his thumb to the crowd, which gets even bigger laughs. Haha! They’re right! That thumb is fucking hilarious!
Data tells a joke about hanging a pork chop around his neck so his dog would play with him, and the audience laughs before he even finishes the joke. Not that you couldn’t see the punch line coming from a mile away, anyway. After telling a couple of jokes in a completely half-hearted monotone, Data finds he still gets the same laughs. Finally, he resorts to just lifting up his hand and doing weird gestures to get laughs. Now that’s comedy!
Eventually, he says, “Audience program off,” and they all laugh themselves straight into oblivion. A sullen Data turns to Piscopo and says, “Discontinue comic,” and Joe Piscopo vanishes. Hey, so that’s what happened to him! Good work, Data! Now see what you can do about Whoopi!
Data tells Guinan, “It was a Holodeck audience. They were programmed to laugh at everything!” Well, here’s a big sack of Duh coming right your way, Commander. Data considers reprogramming them to laugh accordingly, but Guinan tells him that getting people to laugh “is not the end-all and be-all of being human!”
Data insists, however, that there’s nothing more “uniquely human”. And after enduring this long, painfully boring ordeal, we get absolutely no resolution on this plot, because the two just leave to the “fairy dust settling” sound effect. Geez. At least have Joe Piscopo’s head explode or something.
Cut to the bridge, where Riker is telling Wesley to disengage the tractor beam. Meanwhile, Okona is back up on the viewscreen, returned to his own ship. Okona says thanks and Picard says farewell. Despite his bitterness, Wesley can’t forget his first love, so he throws in his own special little goodbye. Okona gives him a thumbs up, but strangely enough, the whole audience doesn’t laugh.
Wesley turns to Data and says, “Say goodbye, Data!” And you know what comes out of his mouth. Do I even have to say it? Everyone chuckles at Data’s reply, and true to form, Data scans his Head DB for the original source of the joke, which turns out to be Burns and Allen, 1932. Unfortunately, Data doesn’t know when to quit, so he starts telling a joke about a nudist colony. Thankfully, Worf completely shuts him down.
God help me, but then Data actually says, “Take my Worf… please!” and there’s pained looks all around. Wow, it’s exactly like a TOS ending. They even re-used the Clarinet of Spock and everything! Finally, the anguish ends when Picard orders the ship to go to warp. The end.
It may not be “And the Children Shall Lead”, but this episode was pretty damn excruciating. I suppose you could make the case that there were some relatively talented guest stars, even if they weren’t given anything interesting to do. And I suppose if you like Data and his story arc, there’s a chance you might find something redeeming here.
For the rest of us, however, it’s 45 minutes of sheer pain. Thankfully, a major shakeup in the TNG writing staff was right around the corner, and things would rarely get this bad again. Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for Joe Piscopo’s acting career.